Elvira Madigan (1967)

Elvira Madigan (1967)

“One day people will be able to choose more than one way to live.”

A tightrope walker (Pia Degermark) and a married lieutenant (Thommy Berggren) who has left his post and his family have a final romantic trip before they must decide how to handle their untenable situation.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Historical Drama
  • Infidelity
  • Romance
  • Runaways
  • Scandinavian Films
  • Star-Crossed Lovers

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, writer-director “Bo Widerberg’s romantic classic” — “set in Denmark in the 1880s” and “based on a true story that has achieved legend status in Scandinavia” — shows a young couple whose “love for each other is so great that they are willing to sacrifice all, to blissfully detach themselves from society.”

However, “they must keep on the move (their photos are in the paper), and their money runs out. They have nothing to eat. They fall into despair, and realize there is only one solution.” Peary adds that while this “film is often lumped with A Man and a Woman, that other famous European romance of the ’60s,” “this is far superior.” He refers to it as “poetic, yet unsentimental,” “with excellent, intelligent acting by Berggren — his character is very likable and interesting”:

… and “the lovely presence of amateur Degermark” (whose real life took a tragic turn in the years after her brief acting career.)

Peary also calls out the “gorgeous cinematography” of “faces, countryside, [and] provincial towns” by Jorgen Persson, and “a compelling theme which appealed to the drop-out-and-love generation.” He points out that the “picture has several memorable moments, including: Sixten’s apology to Elvira”:

… “Sixten inquiring about his children”:

… “hungry Elvira eating flowers and wild mushrooms”:

… and more. Others that stand out to me include a servant shyly showing Elvira how to knit and sew:

… Elvira rigging an impromptu slack-rope to practice her walking on:

… and Elvira’s enjoyment of a visiting string quartet.

While it’s challenging to go into this story knowing the tragic outcome, the film itself remains a surprisingly lyrical and absorbing tale of star-crossed lovers in their final days together.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Thommy Berggren as Sixten Sparre
  • Pia Degermark as Hedvig Jensen
  • Luminous cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a cult favorite.


  • Cult Movie
  • Foreign Gem


3 thoughts on “Elvira Madigan (1967)

  1. First viewing (8/20/21). Not must-see.

    It’s like an extended perfume ad for tragic romance. Not much happens so, at 90 minutes, it just feels long. As for the lovers themselves – for two people who are supposed to be sort of destitute early on, and then increasingly so, they manage to look rather terrific throughout.

  2. I really didn’t expect to enjoy this upon a rewatch, much less call it must-see — but I was pleasantly surprised.

  3. Yes, well, everything has a different effect on everyone. I had never seen it. But it had no effect on me, really.

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